Angelico Press had the pleasure of recently publishing Souls at Work: An Invitation to Freedom by Charlotte Ostermann. Second after Charlotte’s Souls at Rest and to be followed by Souls at Play: An Invitation to Creativity, Souls at Work invites the reader to reflect deeply on the processes of formation, education, intellectual growth, and spiritual maturation, posing questions for reflection aimed at guiding the reader to improve in the spiritual life.
Charlotte was gracious enough to sit down with us to discuss the writing of Souls at Work, her background that’s supported this in-depth look at the spiritual life, and the many other projects that she’s been working on.
Angelico Press Blog: How has the experience of writing Souls at Work differed from the writing of your earlier work Souls at Rest?
Charlotte Ostermann: Souls at Work is so very different! In Souls at Rest, I wanted to teach, to convey a great, deep, drink of one huge idea that was real for me, to encourage and comfort. In Souls at Work, I wanted to converse, to share many different ideas and show how they relate, to challenge and question. For each work, a big part of the struggle is determining the order of organization that will help people (at least, those who read from front to back!) grow as they read, and be prepared for the thoughts I place last.
APB: Souls at Work is aimed at doing the hard work of becoming interiorly free in order to make space for Christ in one’s soul and encourages the reader to use every encounter with the world to do just that. What feature in our physical world most surprised you in your quest to encounter and receive God?
CO: The thing that jolts me and thrills me most is to find myself capable of knowing, in a whole, childlike, poetic, and real way, so much more than my mere brain can handle. The physical world is formed within the created matrix of Holy Wisdom, within the Love that circulates in the Trinity, and there is something in me – in persons – that is capable of correspondence to that vast, invisible matrix of His Word! If you genuinely expect that He made you able to ‘receive’ what He ‘transmits,’ then it’s very exciting to ‘tune in’ to the wonders and delights and adventures waiting all around you.
APB: This book is so comprehensive, pointing out the Divine in everything from our physical world, space, and science to art, education, and travel. What is your background in and what inspired you to start working on this series?
CO: My background is a typical public school education, then undergraduate preparation in business and accounting for a life in money-making. For a while I was a Controller, then taught Business Management at a community college and ran an Entrepreneurship Center for the college. Only when I began to teach my child at home did I ever question the education I had received, and realize it was terribly inadequate. As a convert to Christianity, I became intensely interested in peeling off whatever blinders I had on, and as a mom-teacher, I had to use homeschool time to re-educate myself.
The Holy Leisure series is pure gift to me from God. My family was able to take an extended sabbatical in Europe. By then we had become Catholics, and Pope John Paul had caught my full attention with his assertion that what the world needs is a recapitulation of the human person. I discovered what deep rest is possible apart from the busyness and distraction of ‘normal’ life, and found in that rest a capacity to connect my various interests (education, science, relationship dynamics, poetry, etc…) creatively. For years before this, I had mulled over Josef Pieper’s book, Leisure the Basis of Culture, knowing there was more in it than I completely understood.
Inspiration came as an answer to prayer, and as a resolution to all that was percolating within me. There is a natural creativity that struggles to resolve juxtaposed elements, and there is a supernatural receptivity that takes in God’s new message, or idea. What I experienced is a Catholic generativity that is both.
APB: Are there any other projects that you’re currently working on?
CO: Well, yes, as a matter of fact! About that ‘Catholic generativity’ for instance, I want to write the third book in the Holy Leisure Trilogy, Souls at Play. I would like to get a book of my poetry out, with related explanatory essays to help readers connect more deeply to the poetic experience in those poems. I am collaborating on the design for a traveling exhibit about Antoni Gaudi (this may take years!). I have two children’s books The Crystal Queen and Dance of the Scarecrow that I hope to publish in collaboration with an illustrator artist some day in, perhaps, a crowd-funded project.
I’m teaching my next-to-last child to drive, so updates to Life in Motion: Why I Love Driver Education Time with My Teens keep occurring. I’ll be writing online for Catholic Spiritual Direction, Catholic Writers Guild and Catholic365. I’m getting more disciplined about my own blogging, and about being responsive to the great work others are doing. Someday, just for fun, I want to finish Elizabeth of the Epiphany. Just one year in the life of this lady set me off on many of my current adventures, and I left her behind in this serial story.
I’m also trying to tell many, many more people about the opportunity to give names for aborted children at 50MillionNames.org. Violence is not the end of the story for these babies! We can honor them by giving them names, by offering concrete gestures of support to the people and organizations around us, and by praying for their relatives and abortionists.
APB: Thank you so much, Charlotte! May God bless you and your endeavors, and we look forward to the coming Souls at Play.